"Culture eats strategies for breakfast."
This was one of the buzzphrases that stuck out for me at the CBWC Assembly this past week.
In other words, a church may know they need to do outreach and evangelism, but all the programs and strategies will be for nought unless there is a real culture for evangelism ingrained in their church and among its people. What must really be on the hearts of any congregation is not just a plan to run or engage in a program, but a commitment to reach the lost. Our hearts should be breaking for those who do not yet know Christ; who, because they ignored or rejected God in this life will spend eternity apart from Him in the next.
Systems and processes are not enough. Nor, even, is culture without them. It takes both, but culture must come first.
The question arises, "Why do certain churches stop running Alpha?" It always amazes me when I am speaking to a church leader somewhere in Alberta, and I'm told, "Yes, we ran Alpha a number of years back, and it worked well. We had people come to faith." My obvious question would be, "Well, why aren't you still running it?," even though I don't necessarily phrase it that overtly. The usual answer is that it just kind of petered out, or leaders got tired, or people stopped volunteering.
The plain and painful fact is often that churches often stop running Alpha because they don't have a culture of evangelism. I don't know if I have shared this story before, but I was speaking to a contact at a fairly large and influential church here in Alberta. He had just come to this church from another where Alpha was run (and still is) successfully. This new church has run Alpha in the past, but my contact told me they are now running another program that mainly ministers to their current congregational members, because they couldn't get enough interest in Alpha.
I mentioned this to another church leader in a nearby city and what he said really impacted me. He said, "Yes, (that church) tends to grow when other churches close."
Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost - not the already found. That should be the burden on our hearts as well. Nicky Gumbel himself has said that our devotion is not necessarily to Alpha as a program. If something else came along that did a better job of reaching the world for Christ, we would drop Alpha on a heartbeat.
So far, nothing has.